William Kelly Major Works Commentary - 1 Peter

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William Kelly Major Works Commentary - 1 Peter


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Verse Commentaries:


1 Peter

W. Kelly.

Introduction

Not to the apostle of the circumcision but to him whom the Lord sent to the Gentiles was it given to make known the mystery, or secret of God, as to Christ and as to the church. Nowhere is it so much as named in Peter's inspired writings, though we know that it was revealed since redemption, to the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. But Paul was the minister of the church (Col_1:24-25) as no one else was led to style himself. To him pre-eminently was the mystery made known by revelation, as to him was given this grace to evangelize among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to enlighten all as to what is the administration of the mystery, which from all ages had been hid in God Who created all things. Even the word "church," inserted in 1Pe_5:13 by the A.V. as by other translators, is an unfounded conjecture; and the R.V. rightly agrees with the correction, "She that is in Babylon, elect together with [you], saluteth you, and Marcus my son." It was an individual sister, with the brother named.

The subject matter is the government of God, which is richly treated in both Epistles, but on a different side in each of the two. It is however God's government, not simply as saints of old knew it, but as it was modified by Messiah's advent and the accomplishment of redemption. Hence there is evident contrast with Israel's position under law, and the anticipation by faith of what it will be at Christ's appearing, making the necessary difference that those addressed are strangers and sojourners meanwhile, and hence holy sufferers on the earth, awaiting praise and honour and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. But while the First Epistle is occupied with that righteous government applied to the Christian's path day by day as he hopes for the bright result at our Lord's revelation, the Second pursues it with solemn and detailed energy to the judgment of false teachers, rivalling the false prophets of Israel, and working no less corruption and destruction; and it goes on even to the day of God, by reason of which inflamed heavens shall be dissolved, and burning elements shall melt, succeeded by new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, even the eternal state. The judgment of the wicked was notably distinct in the Second, as the watchful care and eventual triumph of the saints in the First. But, so far from any antagonism or even dissonance, they are the complement of one another.

Accordingly we are told in the beginning of the First Epistle that the apostle Peter addresses "sojourners of dispersion," which can mean Jews only, of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. But they were Christian Jews, and so described as "elect according to foreknowledge of God the Father by (or, in) sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and blood-sprinkling of Jesus Christ." The Gentiles of this large region of Asia Minor were settled at home in it; Jews there were sojourners dispersed from the land of Israel. But the description appended, like the Epistle generally, shows that they were pilgrims in a higher sense as God's children and confessors of Jesus Christ. The Second Epistle (2Pe_3:1) declares that it was written to the same persons. There is no ground therefore to claim for it a more catholic character than for the First. But "catholic" is a word greatly abused.

That both Epistles are divinely given and intended to profit all the faithful is unquestionable. But if for all saints, it is of interest and not without moment that we should recognise to whom they were written. That which the inspired writer himself says ought to be conclusive. But the learned no less than the unlearned like to have their opinions; and the late Dean Alford was only one of many who cite a number of verses, even in the First Epistle, to persuade us, notwithstanding the express terms of the address, that the apostle addresses himself to Gentile Christians as well as Jewish (for instance, 1Pe_1:14; 1Pe_1:18; 1Pe_2:9-10; 1Pe_3:6; 1Pe_4:3). Is it true then, that these passages furnish proof that his admonitions were directed to such as had been heathen, and were now converted to the faith of Christ?

Take now the first of these (i.e. 1 Peter 1: 14); and where is the trace of a Gentile? Were not Jews, when begotten again to a living hope, to be as children of obedience, not conformed to former lusts in their ignorance but according to the Holy One Who called them, to be themselves also holy in all manner of living? What indication of previous heathenism is here? Ver. 18, far from pointing necessarily to Gentiles, emphatically supposes Jews only. For they beyond all had a mode of life handed down ancestrally, and all the more vain from their boasted knowledge of the living God.

Still plainer seems the Jewish appropriation of 2: 9, 10. It is true that the Jews by their unbelief and rebellion, their idolatry first, and finally by Christ's rejection, forfeited their special privileges. "But ye," says the apostle, ye the remnant who believe, ye anticipate what the nation are yet to have "in that day" when they too believe. Ye who in your unbelief belonged to them as "not a people," but now do believe, ye are "God's people;" ye who were not shown mercy, now became objects of mercy. And this is entirely confirmed by the verses which immediately follow. For they are exhorted, as strangers and sojourners in a yet higher way, to abstain from fleshly lusts, having their behaviour seemly "among the Gentiles," as an outside class of evil-speakers.

The next, 1Pe_3:6, offers no difficulty for after setting forth Sarah's pattern of obedience, he tells the wives that they were become her children, not by mere flesh and blood, but by doing good and being not afraid with any terror. How does this imply previous heathenism? The last Isa_4:3; but it is a forcible reminder that in the days of their unbelief they had been morally as corrupt as the heathens. Living far off among them, they were guilty even of their unhallowed idolatries - a thing of course if they were Gentiles, but shameful in Jews. Not a word of proof is there in all or any of these passages that the Epistle goes beyond its address.

It ought not to be doubted that Peter was in Babylon, the literal Babylon on the plain of Shinar, when he wrote the First Epistle, according to the arrangement made in earlier days (Gal_2:7-8), that the gospel of the uncircumcision should be confided to Paul, and that of the circumcision to Peter, God working in each to their respective ends. There was no jar whatever, but happy fellowship; and it was marked by Peter's employing the same brother as his intermediary, who had been Paul's choice on a remarkable occasion and a former mission. It seems not improbable that Peter's wife (cf. 1Co_9:5) was the co-elect sister there whose salutation is given, with that of Mark his son in the faith (it appears). And we may feel assured that he would not associate with his own salutation that of one who had drawn out a memorable censure even of Barnabas, until confidence was restored, as the great apostle expressed it in Col_4:10, Phm_1:24, and 2Ti_4:11. If the apostle Paul was debarred at this time from visiting the assemblies which he had planted in these lands, the apostle Peter writes to strengthen his brethren; but with singular delicacy he addresses those of the circumcision who were allotted to his care, yet sends the letter by Silas the well-known fellow-labourer of the apostle to the Gentiles, who had founded the assemblies throughout this extensive region. Not a word implies that Peter had served in those parts, though Origen and Eusebius state so from a mistaken inference put as a tradition.

It is scarce worth while to notice the strange error of many ancients and moderns that Rome is meant by Babylon. Even if the Revelation had been known when the Epistle was written, instead of long after, it is harsh to conceive a mystical term of prophecy introduced into a writing so simple and direct, yet more into a greeting of love. What can one think of the theologians who cling to that which in the end is fraught with unsparing judgment, in order to extract its shadowy support to the dream of Peter's episcopate in the metropolis of the Gentile world?

1 Peter 1

"Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ to elect sojourners scattered through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (1Pe_1:1).

When James wrote his Epistle, as bondman of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, it was to the twelve tribes that were in the "dispersion." It is a mistake to call this a "catholic" address, but it has an expressly large character for Israel; for it appeals to their utmost extent. So on a notable occasion the apostle Paul says before the king Herod Agrippa, "Now I stand to be judged for the hope of the promise made by God unto our fathers, unto which our twelve tribes earnestly serving God night and day hope to arrive" (Act_26:7). That hope hangs on resurrection, as the prophets indicated clearly, and the law too, rightly understood. Wherefore he immediately (ver. 8) speaks of God raising dead persons, as proved in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. God will thus be the doer and giver of all the blessing He promised; and Israel will have only to incline their ear and come to Him, from Whom they had so long departed, and by Whom they were at length for their apostasy dispersed among the nations. But by-and-by they are to hear, and their soul shall live; and He will make an everlasting covenant with them, the sure (the faithful or inviolable) mercies of David, in Him Who is the true Beloved, a witness given to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples far beyond the son of Jesse.

"The dispersion" is a phrase evidently familiar to the Jews, which first occurs in Joh_7:35, and clearly means the Jews dispersed among the Greeks or Gentiles. For the genitive here as often elsewhere expresses a dependence, not immediate but remote and external, as for instance μετ Βαβ removal to Babylon (Mat_1:11).

But the apostle Peter in this scripture prefixes two words before "dispersion" which necessarily limit the scope of that term. The first, "elect," points out restriction to individuals chosen of God. They were elect from among the Jews, as believing that Jesus was the Christ and Son of God; whereas their brethren after the flesh for the most part rejected Him. Those who believed were Christians.

Israel had enjoyed the privilege of being the nation chosen by Jehovah as no other people was; and they will in sovereign mercy be reinstated at the end of the age under the Messiah and the new covenant, to be blessed with richer favours and for ever in that fast approaching day. It will be no longer a mixed condition as in the palmiest season of the past. "Thy people also (says Isa_60:21-22) shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land for ever; the branch of my planting, the work of. my hands, that I may be glorified. The little one shall become a thousand, and the small one a strong nation: I Jehovah shall hasten it in its time." So Daniel was told later, "At that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Dan_12:1).

But that time is not come. Out of the Jewish people, when the apostle wrote, God is choosing to a heavenly calling by the faith of Him Whom the nation rejected and God has glorified on high. They are His present election while the heavens receive the Lord Jesus. To these only does Peter here write; he does not, like James, address a larger circle, some even unconverted, throughout the twelve tribes. He writes only to Christian confessors of the Lord Jesus who had been Jews.

This last is made plain and certain by the second term, "sojourners," when combined with the word "dispersion" which it qualifies. They were not the primitive possessors of these countries, nor simply "elect" from among its settled inhabitants. They were not only Jews scattered in those parts, but elect "pilgrims" or "sojourners." This was a title of grace, as "dispersion" was of judgment. Their election in this case was bound up with the journey to the better country, that is, a heavenly. Originally Jews, they were now Christians. This entirely accords with the writer of the Epistle. Peter was an "apostle of Jesus Christ" as he here introduces himself; and as the gospel of the uncircumcision had been confided to Paul, so was that of the circumcision to Peter (Gal_2:7). Hence it is to such that these two Epistles were addressed. Compare 2Pe_3:1 with the verse before us. As this is certain, it is unbelieving to allow that any other statements can countervail. Even a man would not write so incoherently: why should men of faith think so unworthily of scripture? Can such persons hold divine inspiration?

It is the more remarkable, because, as we know, the churches throughout Asia Minor had been founded by the apostle Paul and consisted largely of those who had been Gentiles. The delicate consideration of Peter is the more striking, because he directs his appeals throughout a part of that land to those Christian Jews who fell under his administration. Needless to say, his instruction in no way clashed with that which Paul had preached, taught, and written to them, whether Jews or Gentiles. None knew better than Peter how much the Jewish confessors of the Lord Jesus needed to be established in grace; none felt more than he how disposed they were on the one hand to boast in law and ordinances, and on the other to conform to the shameful ways of the Pagans who surrounded them. in his very address or the superscription he strikes the key-note. From the start he thus reminds them, that they were "elect" after a new sort, not national now but personal, and flowing out of the grace of God as Father for known association with Christ not on earth but in heaven. They were therefore but "pilgrims" meanwhile, where He was despised and rejected as a sufferer beyond all others in life (as He was alone and infinitely in His atoning death), that they too might by faith rejoice in sharing His sufferings as far as this could be.

For Peter was jealous over their souls with a godly jealousy, lest election might be severed from a deep sense of divine grace, and the spring be forgotten in claiming the issue. He therefore loses no time in saying plainly that not more surely are they "elect" than "sojourners." Had he heard the Son of God, in pouring out His heart to the Father, declare that His own (and were they not His own?) were not of the world, as He was not? Had he forgotten the Lord's repeating, yet more emphatically, "Of the world they are not, even as I am not" (Joh_17:15; Joh_17:17)? Here it is a figurative expression, but the same truth. They were elect pilgrims. The world of man's home was not theirs, nor yet was Canaan, but heaven, yea the Father's house above. It was not Jewish feeling for the land of promise, but Christian hope in waiting for Christ and to be with Him where He is, and like Him glorified.

Therefore were they but sojourners here looking for glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, and called to gird up the loins of their mind, being sober, and setting their hope perfectly upon the grace to be brought them at that revelation. Practical duties are based on the new relationships of grace; and truth is the communicated knowledge of both. For it is a characteristic of Peter's method and style to blend all together informally and with fervour, so as to act on the renewed mind, exercising the conscience and the heart. If he has not the immense sweep of Paul in ranging through the counsels of God, if not his the penetrating into the roots of complicated questions and clearing the principles at stake, if a far-reaching and unfailing and subtle dialectic belongs to Paul beyond all others, to no one more admirably than to Peter was it given to strengthen his brethren pithily, earnestly, and affectionately, by the exhibition of Christ and His work, and by the constant application of God's righteous government, whatever be His grace too.

The names given of the lands, where were the Christian Jews addressed, call for little notice. It has been shown by others that it well suits one writing from the eastern Babylon, but not the little place so named in Egypt any more than the symbolic metropolis of the west. The lack of persons saluted serves to prove that Peter was little if at all known personally there, whatever might be the just weight of inspired letters from him. These various provinces had been the familiar scene of Paul's labours.

They were "elect," then, "according to foreknowledge of God [the] Father, in (or, by) [the] Spirit's sanctification, unto obedience and blood-sprinkling of Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace be multiplied" (ver. 2).

Israel was the elect people beyond any nation on the earth; but they were elect after quite a different pattern. This clearly appears in Exo_6:2-4. "And God spoke to Moses, and said to him, I am Jehovah; and I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah I was not made known to them. And I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings, wherein they sojourned." The designations as such, were familiar enough previously; but the name was not given by divine authority as a title of relationship to count on, when God first revealed Himself as El-Shaddai to the fathers, next as Jehovah to the sons, of Israel. The true pilgrim fathers were thereby assured of His unfailing protection, weak as they might be, in the midst of the corrupt heathen they were destined to supplant; and the sons were through Moses to know Him as their unchanging Governor who made them a people of possession to Himself through all ages, He that was and is and is to come.

The Christian Jews, believing in Jesus not only Lord and Christ but Son of the living God, as our apostle first confessed Him, were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. So had our Saviour unbosomed Himself in John 17. "I manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them to me; and they have kept thy word.... Holy Father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given to me, that they may be one, even as we are . . . . O righteous Father, the world knew thee not, but I knew thee; and these knew that thou didst send me. And I made known to them thy name, and will make it known; that the love wherewith thou lovedst me may be in them, and I in them." So on the Resurrection-day His message through Mary of Magdala was, "Go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God" (Joh_20:17). How immense the advance in the glory and nearness of the relationship revealed!

According to this form and reality of foreknowledge, then, is the Christian chosen. It was and is Christ's in the fulness of personal divine dignity; it became ours by grace through redemption. The name of "our Father that is in heaven" shone early through the Lord's discourses on the mount, as in Matt. 5-7, and in Luke 6 and elsewhere. But it was definitely and fully made our own by the Lord when risen; and thus the Holy Spirit leads our hearts now in joy and in sorrow. It is so that we are entitled distinctively to know Him, as Christ did perfectly. And it was in God's wisdom that the apostle of the circumcision should make it plain to the believing remnant of the Jews, as the apostle Paul did fully to Gentile believers.

Hence the "sanctification" or "holiness" here spoken of took quite another and far deeper shape. The elect people Israel had been set apart to Jehovah in an outward way. Individually and peremptorily they were circumcised in the flesh on the eighth day Any other peculiar marks were, as the Epistle to the Hebrews declares, "carnal ordinances imposed until a season of reformation." On the contrary the Christian, whether Jew or Greek, enjoys the Spirit's holiness; he is even born of the Spirit (Joh_3:6; Joh_3:8), and thus is the sanctification inward to the utmost degree. Accordingly such a one is "a saint" from God's first vital action spiritually in his soul. So Ananias instructed of the Lord goes to Saul, just converted, and at once accosts him as "Brother Saul," before he was even baptised as he was immediately after; so it is in substance for every one that is begotten by the word of truth. The Spirit's activity is immediate and abiding, the ground of the practical holiness that ensues, which is but partial and relative; whereas what the apostle here introduces is a principle absolute, unfailing, and personal. In practice alas! we must confess, with the Epistle of James, that "we all often offend." Only unspiritual men flatter themselves otherwise. We too frequently need the active care of the blessed Advocate Whom we have with the Father (1Jn_2:1).

Practical sanctification is a capital and constant duty for every Christian; and it is urged, as throughout the Bible, expressly in vers. 15, 16 of this chapter. But in ver. 2 it is solely sanctification in principle, that is, in the life given by grace rather than in the walk which is bound to manifest it, as all the godly must readily own. "As he who called you is holy, be ye also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy." But so to interpret the Spirit's holiness (or, sanctification) here would necessarily dislocate the sentence, and could insinuate nothing but error destructive of truth, even the fundamental truth of the gospel. For what we are taught is that those Christian Jews were chosen, in virtue of the Spirit's sanctification, for obedience and blood-sprinkling of Jesus: the original spring, the necessary power and process, and the distinct result as a fact. If taken to mean holiness in practice, this would be before coming under the virtue of Christ's blood. In other words the error must follow, that practical holiness is the way to be justified by His blood; which might suit a besotted Romanist, but must be rejected by the least enlightened among Protestants. It denies the gospel of God's grace, and is at issue with all scripture that treats of the matter.

But if we understand the words to mean that the Spirit works in souls when born anew, to set them apart to God in this vital and indelible way, all is clear as well as consistent. For His setting apart is unto obedience and blood-sprinkling of Jesus Christ. We are thus sanctified, not externally but in the new life imparted, to obey as Christ obeyed and to be sprinkled with His precious blood. So the same Saul of Tarsus immediately, when converted, says, "What shall I do, Lord?" His heart's primary purpose is to obey; as our Lord Himself could say in His unique perfection, "Lo, I am come to do thy will, O God." The Christian is bent on the same character of obedience. It is not like a Jew, to obey and thus gain life, as under law; it is obeying out of life already possessed, because he believes on Jesus.

Even the order, which to some is a difficulty, strictly adheres to the truth. For converted souls in general, perhaps always, have invariably as the instinct of divine life this purpose to obey as Christ obeyed, not legally, owning God's wondrous grace, before they do or can apprehend at all fully the efficacy of Christ's sacrificial work in blotting out all their sins. The interval may be ever so short where the gospel is distinctly proclaimed; but as this is far from usual, one can see that many a soul truly converted may struggle on for weeks or months or even years, without the comforting assurance that Christ's blood has made them whiter than snow in the eye of God. Saul of Tarsus again supplies an obvious illustration. Was there ever a more notable conversion? Yet was he three days without sight, and did neither eat nor drink: the plain sign of a deep work of self-judgment, in no way of distrust or doubt, before he entered into the settled peace of deliverance by faith of the gospel, which before those days he had only regarded with stern unbelief.

Unquestionably the allusion is to Ex. 24 where Holocaust and Peace-offerings were presented to Jehovah; and Moses took half the blood in basins, and sprinkled half on the altar. Then he read the book of the covenant and the people said, All that Jehovah hath said will we do and obey; and Moses sprinkled the blood on the people, and said, Behold, the blood of the covenant that Jehovah hath made with you concerning all these words. The blood here was the special sanction of death, signified by the blood-sprinkling, in case of disobedience. With this ministry of legal condemnation for the sinner the apostle contrasts the Christian, sanctified by the Spirit from his starting-point, to obey as Christ did in filial love, with the immensely blessed addition of His blood-sprinkling, which cleanses from every sin, instead of menacing inevitable death if we fail. If this was the law wherein Jews boasted, that is the gospel of which Peter was ashamed no more than Paul. The resulting obedience, of which our Lord is alike example and power, is (in other words but the truest sense) our practical holiness; and it confirms in the strongest way the refutation, already ample, of the notion that the Spirit's holiness in this scripture imports the same thing. For it would really confuse the sentence and destroy the truth generally.

The fact is that theology in all the schools, Popish or Protestant, Calvinistic or Arminian, has somehow lost, and ignores, this most momentous truth of the Spirit's primary setting apart the renewed soul to God, even before and in order to justification and that obedience which is its inseparable effect. The only person my reading has lit on with any little inkling of its distinctness from the practical holiness which, as all the Reformed at least agree, follows justification, is the excellent and able Abp. Leighton. All others to the best of my knowledge slur over what they did not understand; and this is to say the least.

But I regret to add that none has more impudently tampered with this scripture, to suit his ignorance of it and his desire to uphold mere dogmatic views, than the famous translator and commentator, Beza, or Theodore de Bezel Dean Alford was bold enough sometimes in squeezing the text and its translation through too much confidence in German critics, and his own real desire to be candid, without sufficient knowledge of the truth or subjection to the divine authority of the written word. But even his occasional temerity shines in comparison with Calvin's successor in the college of Geneva. For I ask any competent scholar whether the ill-regulated wit of man could devise a worse or more shameless perversion of our text than his rendering, "ad sanctificationem Spiritus, per obedientiam," etc. ν = ad! ες = per! Were it in Homer or Herodotus, one might smile at lapses so absurd on the part of a learned, able, and zealous Christian. But such a dealing with God's word is atrocious. Yet this flagrant error stands uncorrected in all the five folio editions of his Greek and Latin N.T. from 1559 to 1598.

Had Beza and other theologians been subject to scripture, they would have learnt by grace that what the apostle of the circumcision here teaches is implied by the apostle of the uncircumcision in 1Co_6:11, "But ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." Do men with the fear of God assume to correct the inspiring Spirit? Do they allow themselves the daring unbelief that they can alter the apostle's word, so as to avoid error and sustain their systems of divinity? It is clear that this greatest even of inspired teachers lets the Corinthians and all believers know, that there is a real and most vital sanctification to God which accompanies the first quickening of the soul, when we are born of water and Spirit, and cleansed from our natural impurity by His life-giving power, before we enjoy the blessed sense of God's justifying us through faith in Jesus and His work. The order of Paul therefore is as necessary and as exact as that of Peter, both conveying the same truth, which has drops out of all the systematic divinity of all ages, as far as I know. The reader can also compare 2Th_2:13. Holiness in practice remains intact, distinct, and imperative, to which justification gives its powerful impulse and cheer.

The apostle here adds, "Grace unto you and peace be multiplied." The nearest analogy in O.T. scripture, singular to say, is in Dan_4:1; though the imperial penitent only says, "Peace be multiplied." So Peter does yet more fully in the address of his Second Epistle to the same dispersed remnant of Christian Jews. It is characteristic of his fervour. James was content to write, "Greeting." Paul usually says, "Grace to you and peace" though he almost always adds "from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," with "mercy" to an individual. Grace is the source, peace the outflow.

In grand terms from a glowing heart our apostle opens his letter after an address, as we have seen, of admirable suitability. It recalls the initiatory of a still greater apostle and the loftier theme of the Epistle to the Ephesian saints. But it is the deeply defined distinction between the two, notwithstanding this obvious resemblance, which gives the true key to both Epistles. He who fails to apprehend the different scope and the divine propriety of each betrays his own spiritual incapacity, and, if he imposes his ignorance on others, is nothing but so far a blind leader of the blind.

"Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ": so begins the letter to the saints that were in Ephesus. He is the God of the Man, Christ Jesus; He is the Father of Him, His Only-begotten, eternal, and beloved Son. He blessed us accordingly in His sovereign grace as "God," in His most intimate relationship as "Father." Every spiritual blessing is conferred; not one fails. It is not natural blessing as on earth to Israel till by transgression they forfeited it. Ours is in the heavenlies where Christ is now glorified at God's right hand; and all is secured in His redemptive power by virtue of Whom all the universe subsists together (Col_1:17). It is in Christ so as to be unchanging blessedness, in contrast with those who stood on the conditions of the law fatal to the sinful and fruitless.

No such wealth of privilege, no such heavenly elevation, appears in our text; yet does it announce what is equally momentous for the saint and for God's glory. Every other spiritual blessing had been in vain, if God's mercy did not beget us again, as our Epistle declares. There is no blessing more absolutely necessary for a sinner lost and ruined, with the old life depraved by inborn evil, habitual self-will, and incurable alienation from God. Hence the precious assurance of our apostle in words at first strikingly akin to those of the apostle Paul. "Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that according to his abundant mercy begot us again unto a living hope through Jesus Christ's resurrection out of [the] dead" (ver. 3): an entirely new and divine life.

It is not as Jehovah for Israel, nor as Almighty God for the fathers. For us Christians God wrought more profoundly for His glory and for those who believe. It was in Christ's redemption in view both of the present and future on earth, and for heaven through all eternity. For He went down under God's judgment of sin, broke the power of sin and death, procured purification for sinners by His blood, and was raised again for the justification of believers. Every saint from the beginning had life in the Son of God: impossible to live to God, as all did, without life in Him. But now the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ wrought in a more triumphant way in Him Who as sin-bearer entered the dark portals of the grave which closed on all others, and so glorified God that He could not but raise Him from among the dead in the virtue of a life which death could no wise touch, so complete that henceforth we belong not to death, but rather death to us. Thus did God as here revealed beget us again through Christ's resurrection out of the dead. None could speak or know it till that mighty witness of redemption. It was not, nor could be true, till Christ was thus raised.

Truly it was "according to God's abundant mercy." If death has no more dominion over the dead and risen Saviour, the believer receives a commensurate portion even now: so much so that were He to come from heaven for us, we should be changed in a moment into the likeness of the body of His glory. Mortality would be swallowed up of life without one dying. We should not be unclothed but clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.

It is therefore "unto a living hope" that God begot us again. "Lively," though due to Tyndale and followed by Cranmer, Geneva, and even the Rhemish, is inadequate and misleading. Wiclif alone was right. We are viewed as pilgrims still on earth in our mortal bodies. We have left the Egypt world, and have crossed the Red Sea, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, instead of meaning death to us, is our cleansing from our sins; as His life is the spring of that filial obedience, which in Him is seen in absolute perfection. We are here not regarded in the height of the heavenlies, risen with Christ and seated in Him there. But Christ is raised for our deliverance, and we are ushered into the world as set free from the old house of bondage, and we traverse it as the wilderness, led of God on the way to the heavenly Canaan as Israel of old to the earthly.

It is accordingly under this aspect that the Epistle contemplates the Christian. He has to do with a God of grace, not of law for a Jew, and an object of His government here below, till the living hope is realised of being with Christ and in heaven. But that divine government for every day meanwhile is not of the chosen people as of old in earthly power and with deliverances to strike the eye and awe of the nations. A government of souls comes before us while evil is still prevalent in the world; but God makes all things, trials and sufferings of faith in particular, work together for good to those that love Him. As Christ's resurrection was manifestly the victory of the Saviour for His own over the enemy's power, behold Him on high to fill them with holy confidence that He will appear to their full deliverance and glory in due time according to promise.

In the Epistle to the Ephesians we find the present association of the Christian and the church with heaven in Christ. Here it is a living hope of reaching heaven through Christ in a glorified state by-and-by. Both aspects of the truth are of the deepest interest and importance: we are on earth redeemed, as pilgrims and strangers, going across a desert and waiting for Christ; we are also even now quickened together with Christ, raised together with Him, and seated in Him in the heaven" lies. As the letter to the Ephesians treats all its topics on this footing from first to last, so does the first Epistle of Peter to the Christian Jews throughout open out to them divine life as theirs, aided by the sustaining power and gracious direction of God, to guide them through this dread and howling wilderness of the world.

Nor are there any proofs of the inspired mind of God finer or firmer than the details of divine truth thus discoverable to the soul dependent on God and honouring His word. Some of the indications, each characteristic of its own book, may appear as we dwell for a season on this or that; but what are they among the many more which remain to reward the diligent searcher into these oracles, nowhere deceiving, never dumb?

The scope of our Epistle excludes, as we have seen, the great truth unfolded in that to the Ephesian saints, that we are already blessed in the heavenlies (ν τος πουρανοις) in Christ. This is connected indissolubly with the mystery of God's will, which gave Christ, set there above the highest creatures, as Head over all things to the church, the which and which alone is His body. Accordingly we await an administration of the fulness of the seasons or set times, when God will head or sum up all the universe in the Anointed Man, the things in the heavens and those on the earth, in Him in Whom also we were given heritage.*

{*It is an instructive proof how little the most eminent critical ability avails for the N.T., that Lachmann edited κλθημεν (A D E F G) in Eph_1:11, where spiritual intelligence is certain that it must be κληρθημεν, the added truth of our heirship. The Vulgate had similarly erred though qualifying it by "sorte," as also the Peschito and Harcl. Syrr.; Memph. etc. in the rendering of "chosen" which belongs to the calling, not to the inheritance.}

We have no such elevated relationship revealed here, nor is the boundless inheritance of all creation in this Epistle predicated of us or even of Christ. The inheritance here is simply "in the heavens" to contrast it the more distinctly with that which was Israel's portion in the land of Canaan. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ begot us again unto a living hope through resurrection of Jesus Christ from out of dead persons. It was a hope therefore superior to the inroads of death. If He died, it was that our sins should not bar us from bliss with Him, inasmuch as His own self bore them in His body on the tree; and He rose that we might enjoy His victory, as well as profit now and ever by His suffering once for sins.

But the apostle pursues the inspired aim yet more definitely into the future - "unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and unfading, reserved in [the] heavens for you*, that are being guarded by God's power through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in a (or, the) last season" (vers. 4, 5).

{*There are but few cursives which read μς "us," as do Steph edd. 3 and 4, and Beza edd. 1 and 2, and Elz. It is in none else even of the Barber editions, as Erasm. Complut. Ceph. Beb. Colin. Steph. 1 and 2. Beza is right in edd. 3, 4, and 5. No uncial is known to sanction "us," which seems due to assimilating ver, 4 to 3, in disregard of what follows.}

Thus Christ risen and gone on high (instead of taking His seat on the holy hill of Zion, and the sceptre of righteousness over Israel and the nations) has changed the outlook for the believer meanwhile. He too looks by faith on Christ where He is, and awaits the part which the gospel pledges to him in heaven. It is an inheritance which no corruption can destroy, which no defilement can sully, which resists all the withering of time. In itself, in its purity, and in its freshness, it will abide unchanging. It stands in virtue of Him Who not only created all originally but Who has reconciled us, and will more widely still by His blood (Col_1:20, Heb_9:23).

The inheritance in view is in no way enjoyed now, but "reserved in the heavens for you." Who can doubt these words were meant to raise the eyes of these believing Jews especially, and of the readers in general, above "glory dwelling in our land," as in Psa_85:9? Yet the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and to those that turn in that day from transgression in Jacob, when (as surely as Jehovah said the word) His Spirit and His words, according to His covenant, shall not depart from them from generation to generation, from henceforth and for ever. But beyond just doubt, neither the closing promise of Isa. 59 nor the glowing vision of Isa. 60 and of all that follows to the end of the book, speaks of an inheritance "reserved in the heavens" for those who now believe in the gospel. It is Israel and the glory predicted for the earth, though rising up in the last two chapters to "new heavens and a new earth." The promise is there applied to Jerusalem; but it furnished the ground for Peter in his Second Epistle to look onward to its fulfilment in the largest sense, when the kingdom shall give place to the eternal state, and God shall be all in all. Before that, will be accomplished, inchoatively at least, Israel's full part in that which shall never know change or eclipse.

The language here recalls Col_1:5, where the apostle Paul speaks of "the hope that is laid up for you in the heavens." The saints there, as here, are regarded as on earth, instead of being seen in their present heavenly association with Christ. It is hope anticipating the glory on high, not as already seated together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, as in Eph_2:6. Only Peter was not given like Paul to tell the saints in the Epistle to the Colossians, that as they died with Christ and were raised with Him, and thus had done with ordinances for men as alive in the world, so they were to seek and mind the things above where He sits, not those on the earth. Indeed our apostle (as we see in 1Pe_2:24) rises no higher than our death to sins in a practical way, which is true and important, not at all to the doctrine in Rom. 6 of our death with Christ to sin, which is the root, and not merely the manifest effect or offshoot. Every shade of difference proves how grievously those err who think that scripture speaks loosely. For such a thought really betrays the spiritual ignorance of such as presume to judge it; when in fact they, however great their erudition outside (it may be), have need to be taught the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God, and are become such as need milk rather than solid food.

The hope of such an inheritance reserved for them in the heavens was most cheering. But in thinking of themselves and the wilderness through which they pass, they needed and have another source of blessed comfort - you, says he, "that are being guarded by (or, in) God's power." What more suitable, what more precious and welcome, than such a divine assurance? The inheritance was kept or reserved for them in the heavens. This was just what was wanted, while they were on the earth waiting and learning self as well as God, and suffering for righteousness' sake or, still more blessed, for Christ's name. But, as proving their own weakness and men's hostility and Satan's active malice, they were constantly exposed to difficulties, trials, afflictions, and dangers. Hence their need to be meanwhile guarded all the way through. And so they are - garrisoned by God's power. And if God be for us, who against? Is He not immeasurably more than all?

Still God has His means; and this the apostle proceeds next to tell us. It is "through faith." Nor can any means for a saint on earth compare with faith. For it beyond all others honours God and the word of His grace, needing dependence on the good Shepherd by the Holy Spirit, Who is sent here and dwells in the Christian, to guide into all the truth, and thus glorify Him by receiving of His and announcing or reporting it to us. Thus is it "by God's power," but "through faith" which gives Him His due place, and keeps us in our place of confidence in Him according to His word. For we walk through faith, not through sight (2Co_5:7). It was not so that Israel marched through the wilderness, but guided visibly by the cloud or the pillar of fire. The Christian now, whether a Jew or a Gentile, has to walk through faith, of which the Lord Himself was the blessed pattern and perfection.

But the end is also added: "unto [or, for] salvation." In our Epistle, as often in the Pauline Epistles, salvation does not stop short of the final result. See Rom_5:9-10; Rom_5:8 Rom.: 24; 1Co_5:5; Heb_1:14; Heb_7:25; Heb_9:28. Hence when our apostle speaks of what is now given and enjoyed, he discriminates it as "salvation of souls" (1Pe_1:9). Otherwise he connects salvation with the full victory of Christ even for the body; which therefore must look on to the future day.

This is entirely confirmed by the context. Here for instance it is a salvation "ready to be revealed." This is quite characteristic of our apostle. For the truth which runs through the First Epistle in one form, and the Second in another, is the righteous government of God as made known in Christ to the Christian. John is occupied with eternal life in the Son of God; the issue of which will be the Father's house where He is, and we are to be, at His coming to fetch us there (Joh_14:2-3). 1Jn_3:2-3, adds that if it or He is manifested, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. The apostle Paul was given, more than any, to make known how the saints are to be changed and caught up to be with the Lord; so as to be brought with Him when that day begins (1Th_3:13, 1Th_4:13-17).

Thus Peter points to the revelation of salvation in the day of Christ's appearing; because not till then will be the establishment of the kingdom in power and glory when the earth and the earthly people shall taste its blessed effects. Grace will be shown in the richest way by the Lord's coming to receive us to Himself that we may thus be with Him in the Father's house: all are caught up alike, as the apostle Paul shows, into the same home of love. But there is no manifestation of righteous government in this; in the revelation to the world there will be in the highest degree. For in His appearing and kingdom each will be seen as having received his own reward according to his own labour. And the Lord, the righteous Judge, will render in that day the crown of righteousness, not to the faithful servant only who was already being "poured out," but also to all who love His appearing. Then too will Satan be excluded not only from the heavenlies but from the earth. Then will come the world-kingdom of the Lord and His Christ, and not only recompence to the righteous, but destructive retribution to those that destroy the earth (Rev_11:15-19).

Peter also lays great stress on the fact that Christ has so completely wrought redemption to God's glory that nothing calls for delay, save the long-suffering of God that is still bringing souls to repentance. Otherwise salvation is "ready" to be revealed "in a last season," as Christ is "ready to judge living and dead" (1Pe_4:5). Both belong to that day of manifestation, when evil shall be put down, and judgment, instead of miscarrying as so often now, shall return to righteousness. Never more shall the throne of wickedness claim fellowship with Jehovah. "For He cometh; for He cometh to judge the earth." Those who mind earthly things cannot love His appearing, which will establish the new divine order of righteous government wherein Jehovah alone shall be exalted.

Thus the new life imparted, as abundant as the mercy that begot us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from out of the dead, has a result no less worthy of the God and Father of our Lord. It is for an inheritance incorruptible in itself, undefiled by evil, and unfading in its beauty. It is not on earth as Israel looks for their portion, but reserved in heaven for saints who in their weakness are being guarded in the midst of difficulties and dangers through faith unto salvation, founded on a sacrifice even now accepted, and therefore ready to be revealed, even for the body, in a last season which will manifest the grand purpose of God.

The apostle now turns to the marked and peculiar characteristic of Christianity which stands contrasted with the hopes of Israel: the co-existence of exceeding joy, whilst passing through keen sorrow of ever so varied kinds. It will not be thus! when Jehovah reigns, the world is stablished that it cannot be moved, and He judges the peoples with equity; when all creation is in harmony, the heavens glad, the earth rejoicing, the sea and its fulness loudly responsive, the field and all that is therein exulting, and the very trees of the wood singing for joy (Ps. 96). While the Lord Jesus abides hidden on high, the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now, though its earnest expectation waits for the revealing of the sons of God (Rom. 8); as their revealing depends on the manifestation of the Lord (Col. 3).

Then, and not before, will come the restitution of all things (Acts 3), when God who sent Jesus the first time for the redemption (by blood) of His heirs will send Him again for redemption (by power) of the inheritance, both heavenly and earthly (Eph_1:10). Then Zion shall never more taste sorrow or shame; and stiff-necked rebellious Israel shall be meek under Jehovah and David their king, their backsliding healed, themselves loved freely, when He will be as the dew to them (Hosea 3, Hosea 14), and they in the midst of many peoples as dew from Him, as showers upon the grass, a blessing that tarries not for man nor waits for the sons of men (Micah 5).

But though by faith we behold Jesus, Who has been made a little lower than angels on account of' the suffering of death, for the same reason crowned with glory and honour, now we do not yet see all things subjected to Him, as they will be seen when His world-kingdom comes (Rev_11:15). Meanwhile sufferings prevail during the present time; and Satan, though known to faith as judged in the cross of Christ, is the ruler of this world, the god of this age blinding the thoughts of the faithless to the end that the illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ Who is God's image should not shine forth. Hence the Christian has the part of Christ, rejection and suffering both for righteousness and for His name. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1Co_15:19). How different from the day when "great shall be the peace of thy (Zion's) children. In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression, for thou shalt not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near thee." "Behold, they may gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall because of thee." "And nations shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Isa_60:3). "For that nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish" (ib. 12): "Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for Jehovah shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended" (lb. 20).

Undoubtedly these are highly figurative expressions; but they are figures expressive of Israel's blessings in the days of the future kingdom when Jehovah shall be King over all the earth. In that day shall Jehovah be one, and His name one (Zec_14:9). Then idols of silver and gold shall be consigned to the moles and to the bats (Isa_2:20). And peoples shall flow to the mountain of Jehovah's house; and many nations shall go and say, "Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His path; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among many peoples and reprove strong nations afar off; and they shall forge their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-knives: nation shall not rise against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Mic_4:1-3).

In these scriptures there is a true foreshadow of the coming kingdom, but in no sense applicable to the Christian. For he now, though having peace in Christ, shall have tribulation in the world, called to suffer hardship as a good soldier of Christ; he knows, that if we endure, we shall also reign with Him, while wicked men and impostors wax worse and worse deceiving and deceived. As our apostle says (2: 20), "If when ye do well and suffer, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable (or, grace) with God." Such is practical Christianity in contrast with the coming kingdom, contradicted alike by the principle and the practice of Christendom. It is therefore the more imperative to dwell on the truth and expose the departure from it for His glory and the walk of faith.

Again we have, in a general application, what the apostle of the Gentiles says of Christian service in the still fuller and more emphatic terms of 2Co_6:4-10. If Paul knew it above measure in his ministry, he like Peter calls on every Christian to be "as sorrowful (or, grieved), yet always rejoicing."

"Wherein ye exult, now for a little (if it is needful) put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith, much more precious than gold that perisheth though proved by fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at [the] revelation of Jesus Christ" (vers. 6, 7).

To connect "wherein" with the last season seems poor in comparison with the glorious result generally. It is even misleading, if it be so taken as to deny the Christian's title to exuberant joy even now in the portion God has given us in Christ. Never will there be a work to surpass, yea or to match, what has been already wrought in the cross. Nowhere else such a concentration of what otherwise must be irreconcilable, majesty and humiliation, holiness and mercy, righteousness and sin, love and hatred, Satan apparently victorious but really and for ever vanquished, man at his utter worst, God in His fullest grace, Jesus at the lowest point of obedience, yet glorifying God absolutely even as to sin, all issuing for the believer to God's glory in a perfect acceptance and an everlasting deliverance, with the reconciliation of all creation to come. "Wherein ye exult." What else can we feel through grace? If we believe, we do not wait for the day of sight to participate in this exceeding joy, which breaks forth in thanksgiving and praise. In that day it will without doubt be unmixed with suffering and sorrow. The weakness of the mortal body will be no longer, but incorruption, glory, and power: so thoroughly shall we all be changed at Christ's coming. There is no scripture, no sound reason, however hostile, to deny present exultation as a proper characteristic of the Christian even now; or this, as the precise meaning here intended by the apostle.

But it is accompanied by being "put to grief" as a needed passing trial in God's government, while the exceeding joy may and ought to be habitual. For this rests on accomplished redemption and life in the power of resurrection, on the grace and truth which came through the Saviour. These abide unchanging for our souls, whereas the grief is definite; as the very tenses of the verb and of the participle imply, no less than the facts warrant from which both affections cannot but flow. Hence "now for a little" qualifies of course the aorist participle, and in no way our actual exultation as unbelief in effect would make it. This is still more distinctly taught by the brief clause "if needful," or "if there is need." How considerate and good! For the Father of spirits deals thus for our profit to the partaking of His holiness. No discipline at the time seems of joy but of grief; but afterward it yields peaceable fruit of righteousness to those that have been exercised by it. So we read in Heb_12:10-11.

Nor is Peter's doctrine really different: "for a little at this time,* if there is need, put to grief in manifold trials," or temptations. So triumphantly says Rom_8:34, It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather raised, who is too at the right hand of God, who also intercedeth for us: who shall separate us from the love of Christ? tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? These were heavy trials, but by no means all; for indeed they are many and manifold. But if we do not know what we should pray for as is fitting, the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us intercedes according to God Who hears Him; and we do know that all things work together for good to those that love God, to those that are called according to purpose.

*The ρτι is in no way superfluous, if γαλλισθε be as it is a proper present; for it goes with the participle to counteract any wrong use of the aorist. The grief comes transiently now, and only where an unerring God sees the need. This when trusted is a great cheer in the trial.

Only as Heb. 12 looks for a good result now, our text points to yet more by-and-by, as it says, "that the proof of your faith, much more precious than of gold that perisheth though proved by fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory in the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Thus the apostle contemplates the wilderness and our journeying through it. In the type this began for Moses and Israel with a song of exultation; and if Israel failed to continue thus, it is no rule for us, for (or, concerning) whom God foresaw some better thing; and what happened to them is written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come. The worshippers once purged have no longer any conscience of sins; and no wonder. For Christ by one offering has perfected for ever - in perpetuity - those sanctified, as Christians are. The wilderness is pre-eminently the scene of temptation. There the heart is put to the proof. All the more needful is it, that in passing through we cherish confidence in God's love to us. There we find by these trials how weak we are, and alas! it may be, careless, light, and unfaithful. We are sifted like Simon Peter, but have the Lord pleading for us as for him that our faith fail not. For this is the desire and aim, that the proof of our faith might be found to praise.

Note again that praise, honour, and glory are connected with Christ's revelation. His coming to receive and take us to the Father's house is supreme grace; in His revelation will be the appraisal of fidelity and reward accordingly. Both assuredly will be verified; but righteous government is quite distinct from sovereign grace.

The apostle explains how it is that the Christian is enabled to exult in the midst of trials ever so severe, yet never allowed but where need calls for them at the present time and for a little while. For assuredly, if God's power acts as a garrison round His saints whilst they pass through the world, it is no less energetic in controlling every hostile influence, whatever be the malicious wiles of the adversary the devil. Hence can we boldly say, we know that all things work together for good to those that love God, to those that are called according to purpose. Yea we glory in the tribulations also, knowing what under God is the blessed result both here and hereafter. All the blessing along the way turns upon having Christ as the object before our souls.

"Whom, having not seen, ye love; in whom, though not now seeing but believing, ye exult with joy unspeakable and glorified (or, full of glory), receiving the end of your faith, salvation of souls" (vers. 8, 9).

When the kingdom is manifested in power and glory at the revelation of Christ, when Jehovah will punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth, when with His sore and great and strong sword He will visit leviathan the fleeing serpent and leviathan the crooked serpent, and will slay the dragon that is in the sea, He will in Zion make unto al